I was sobbing on the kitchen floor, Dakota's blood all over my hands and the tile flooring, when Melissa came in. I heard her gasp, and next thing I knew, she was kneeling beside me, asking me what was going on.
"It's Dakota," I said. "He's cutting." I rocked back and forth on my heels, my hair falling around my face. "He's cutting."
I don't know how many times I repeated myself, but apparently I wasn't quite thinking straight, because Melissa helped me up and led me over to the couch. "Nadia," she said quietly, "Nadia, what's going on?"
I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. I was losing my mind.
"Nadia, sweetheart, talk to me."
I shook my head and managed to choke out, "I'll be fine."
"No, you won't be fine. I'm not going to let you stay here alone. Pack up some things and come to my apartment for the night." Melissa paused, then repeated herself. "I'm not going to let you stay here alone."
Like a robot, I followed Melissa's command, numbly picking through my drawers and shoving the clothes, toiletries, and such that I'd need for as long as it took for Dad to get back. I knew I should follow Dakota back to our mom and step-dad's house, but I couldn't bring myself to walk into that lion's den. Not yet. I wasn't strong enough to cope with any more beatings. I just hoped Dakota would be.
At the sight of my next-to-overflowing bag, Melissa nodded encouragingly. "You're going to stay at my apartment as long as you'd like, Nadia."
"Th-thanks," I muttered. "I don't want to go back to my mom's."
Melissa looked concerned at this, but she didn't say anything. I was glad she didn't press the issue. Honestly, I didn't feel like talking at the moment. As I hopped into the passenger's seat of her suburban, she reached over and patted my leg. "Have you eaten dinner yet?"
I shook my head.
"What sounds good?"
"Nothing." I pulled my legs up to my chest. "I don't want to eat anything." Then, I thought better of it. "A milkshake sounds good."
Melissa pulled into the nearest McDonald's and bought me the largest size of strawberry milkshake that they had. She'd hadn't eaten yet, so I drank my milkshake and she ate her salad in total silence.
When we got to her apartment, I just sat in the passenger's seat, unwilling to move. I didn't want to do anything but curl up into a ball and die.
"Nadia, honey, it's time to get out now," said Melissa. She reached in and took my bag for me. I followed her inside and up the flights of stairs until we reached her apartment.
"There's a bedroom you can take right here," said Melissa. She let me take my bag and arrange my things alone.
Finally, once I'd taken out the things I'd need for the night, I sat down on the bed of the guest room, brain-dead. It was like I couldn't even think anymore. I just sat there, unthinking, unfeeling.
I looked up and saw Melissa watching me, a worried expression on her face. I began to cry all over again, and she sat down beside me.
It must have been almost an hour that we sat there in silence. Melissa held me and I finally let all the tears stream down my face. No words needed to be said.
Finally, I offered Melissa a smile. "I think I'll be okay now," I said.
Melissa squeezed my hand.
I felt just a little bit braver.